Tuesday, February 17, 2009

India 4: Kannur and Wayanad

We had great fun waking up at two in the morning in Udupi to catch our three o'clock train to Kannur. It was even greater fun when we arrived at the train station only to find out that the train had been delayed to four o'clock. Then five o'clock.

We boarded the train shortly after 5, took a nap, and arrived at Kannur's train station at around 10 to meet the guy who'd been dispatched from the homestay to meet us. He took us to Costa Malabari, an excellent beachfront homestay a short drive outside of Kannur that we strongly recommend.

The beach is wonderful, guests are given huge portions of Keralan food, and the owner is knowledgeable about the local religious dance form known as theyyam.

Theyyam is an all-night affair, consisting of a heavily made-up dancer (distinct from kathakali dance, but still rather reminiscent of it) who gets possessed by spirits and dances himself into a frenzy. Our host kept himself informed on the local theyyam scene, and let us know that we'd be able to see one local theyyam performance reach its apex if we took a rickshaw to the place just before dawn.

So we woke up early, a rickshaw was summoned, and we traveled to a temple where a sizable crowd had already gathered. Amid drums, a dancer jumped about and got up on stilts. Another dancer in awe-inspiring makeup had torches - real, flaming torches - stuck in his chestpiece, and he rushed about, bringing his torches alarmingly close to the spectators, who cheerfully reached out their hands to feel the flames.

And then the sun was up. All in all, a worthwhile experience.

That day we left the Malabar coast for Wayanad, a highland inland area of Kerala.

I snapped a couple of pictures from our bus. This is what urban Kerala looks like, everyone.

In Wayanad we stayed at Varnam Homestay, another homestay I highly recommend. Friendly management, good food, and a friendly dog.

His name is Jimmy and he is very very very very very happy when guests are friendly to him. And at night he helpfully barks when wild boars are passing through.

From Varnam we went on a morning tour of Tholpetty Wildlife Sanctuary. The sanctuary's main attraction is its elephants. We saw three - one on the way to the sanctuary, and two within it. I did not get a good picture of any of them (you ever try to get close to a wild elephant? You better be able to run fast) but I did get some decent monkey shots.

These monkeys are langurs - a different species from the macaques who are so common in Indian towns and villages. Other wildlife in the sanctuary include peacocks, deer, and tigers - we didn't see any of the last, but our guide pointed out footprints.

After our successful little safari outing, we wandered through the rural fields near our homestay.

A little group of village children on their way home from school stopped on a path to try out their English on us. These are elementary-school children who live in a farming village in a developing country, far away from any major city. And do you know what I noticed, and remembered?

At least one of them had a cell phone. Maybe they all did.

1 comment:

IndianWildlifeClub said...

An interesting perspective of Wayanad!